I've always been a music tragic. And with diverse taste, from electronica to country to indie to dance to pop, to alternative and tha hip hop.

Music is never superficial for me. It's rarely just some background noise. It expresses situations, hopes, desires, sadness, gladness, anger, love, fun and frivolity. To personify music, it says many things. And I love it when it speaks volumes.

We all enjoy music, and many of us enjoy it in different ways: as a personal experience in headphones, as a shared concert, in clubs and pubs, in the car, at events.

For a long time now, the place I most enjoy music is in The Hutch.

When Judy, Seb, Al and I moved into our current home on the 25th of April 1999 we were immediately taken with how livable it was. It was an old and dodgy renovation, sure, but everything was basically in the right place, and designed for living, not for looking at.

It featured a bright and open kitchen and family room with the kitchen space large and well suited to cooking up a storm and entertaining, while still being connected with everyone in the house. But it had an awful and varnished pine timber ceiling and hideously patterned brown shiny floor tiles.

It featured a large separate dining room for more formal occasions with large windows that overlooked a patch of garden. But the timber beam ceiling was a Jerry built affair, painted battleship gray to match the walls, with plasterboard that had just been laid out on top of the structure and not even screwed down. And the garden was mostly dead.

It featured a front formal lounge that would be perfect for relaxed entertaining, with French doors leading to the outside. But the fireplace had been removed without removing evidence that there had been a fireplace at some stage, and the floor bounced like a trampoline.

On the colour scheme, every wall in the whole house, inside and out was painted battleshippish gray like the dining room, except for the magnificent master bedroom, which featured that furry patterned yellow and gold wallpaper that had been painted cream. Note to renovators: previous fur wallpaper plus paint on top equals severe grazes and injuries if you vaguely brush against it.

You get the idea. This was a house with all the right things in all the right places, but you couldn't have considered it remotely beautiful in a long time. Quite possibly since circa World War Two.

It was owned for decades by a Greek family, and this family's paterfamilias (to use a Roman term for "master of the house") was certainly no master of the tool belt. What a complete, utter, breathtakingly bad chippie, sparkie, plumber, and probably wainwright this bloke was. But boy, did he know what was needed to live just right. By measure of his presumed happiness with the livability improvements to his castle this bloke would have thought himself a tradie among the Gods.

Despite his lack of skill, this man was a visionary.

At the very back boundary, beyond the pool with falling off tiles and looking like your average duck pond complete with slime at the time, we found The Hutch.

From humble beginnings, The Hutch has become an institution with our friends and family.

At face value, a very large 12x5 metre alfresco outdoor entertaining area walled on three sides with a roof, complete with lighting, kitchen with a bench, sink, gas cook top and oven, plus a wood fired pizza oven, power facilities for a fridge and appliances, and a powder room.

Truly a magnificent erection.

The man was ahead of his time, as this outdoor area had stood already for many, many decades. Modern living trends have only recently cottoned on to outdoor living spaces.

In keeping with our paterfamilias' building skills the kitchen bench was brickwork with up-cycled door laid flat and blue tile finish atop, the pizza oven had no flu, the oven had more layers than an onion of crap and sat on rotting particleboard, and the floor was terracotta painted concrete that was chipping to reveal green paint that was chipping to reveal cracked concrete. Don't get me started on the electrical wiring.

The powder room deserves special mention. This was a semi-enclosed 1x1 metre outdoor box dunny[1], that stood proudly in one corner. It had 1.8 metre high walls, and an open roof that was just perfect for continuing a conversation with family and friend whilst relieving yourself in the thunder box[2]. A very social dunny.

We straight away thought The Hutch was just fucking awesome. As would have his family before us.

Many, many, many, many social events have taken place there. And in fact, for most of the year round this is Judy and my primary place of residence.

And sitting in The Hutch is where I most enjoy music. Alone. And with Judy. And with it packed with friends. And with it packed with family.

Time, money and decent builders have done wonders for the state of the house and The Hutch, but almost everything is still functionally equivalent to when we moved in. There is now a smart home style electrical system, there is occupancy sensing, heat panels, a dishwasher and modern appliances, marble bench tops, 5Ghz WiFi, and more. And that's just The Hutch. There is also now a fancy separate bathroom outside with generous proportions and privacy.

Today, the sound system in the completely renovated Hutch is a 770W 7.2 channel DTS-X surround affair, with twin flat panel screens, media centre, Net radio, PVR and NetFlix. The level of sophistication in the equipment installed is light years from the humble set up in 1999.

But all the sophistication and polish has not changed the fact that any entertaining, whether birthday parties, catching up with friends to just enjoy their company, annual Australia Day BBQ with the "Willies" from Williamstown, or new years eve parties are filled with music. Even just lounging idly by the pool in summer. The equipment evolution just underscores the importance of music in this place in any situation.

It is against this backdrop that we live out a fair portion of Judy's cancer 2.0 journey at home, in The Hutch.

In the weeks after her diagnosis I found myself largely unintentionally playing music that reduced me to tears. It seemed I could not listen to anything without hearing the lyrics, thinking where they came from, who felt them, and then thinking about them in the context of this bloody shit.

Labi Siffre's "I got the"...
The Lighthouse Family's "High"...
Garth Brooks' "The Dance" (oh, my God ... if there's just one country song you hear in your life, then this is the one)...
Snow Patrol's "Dark Roman Wine" and "Chasing Cars"...

I all but stopped listening to music for about six months. I had to. It was just too hard. It was too emotionally draining.

It's also affected Judy as well. She mostly listens to 3AW talk radio, which she loves. It's a far safer option, even if they do play the occasional tune.

The other day, as Judy wandered the aisles of our local supermarket pushing a trolley alone, in the background played Jewell's "Meant for me". She burst into tears spontaneously in the cleaning products aisle, with tears rolling down her cheeks.

And it's affected family members, too. On holiday up in Trinity Beach recently I sat quietly on the balcony, listening to the Righteous Brothers "Unchained Melody", in tears. Looking over at Judy sitting just inside, she was in tears. Later, mum confessed that she had been relaxing in her bedroom reading a book, and then was in tears hearing that beautiful song floating in.

As a test tonight, in The Hutch I spun up the Lighthouse Family's "High". This didn't go well, reducing me to a teary mess by the first chorus. Confessing this, Judy suggested maybe I need to start easy with something like Pharrell Williams' "Happy" and work my way up from there to advanced level again.

Baby steps.

I was always curious whether there was a deeper meaning for the lyrics to the Lighthouse Family's "High". Overlaying the bloody cancer situation Judy and I find ourselves in, I think the subtext could relate directly to us. Then, I guess the art of creating music that speaks volumes to many is the key to artistic success.

You decide.


High

Lighthouse Family

When you're close to tears remember
Some day it'll all be over
One day we're gonna get so high
And though it's darker than December
What's ahead is a different colour
One day we're gonna get so high

And at
The end of the day
remember the days
When we were close to the edge
And we'll wonder how we made it through the night
The end of the day
remember the way
We stayed so close till the end
We'll remember it was me and you

'Cause we are gonna be forever you and me
You will always keep me flying high in the sky of love

Don't you think it's time you started
Doing what we always wanted
One day we're gonna get so high
'Cause even the impossible
is easy when we got each other
One day we're gonna get so high

And at
The end of the day
remember the days
when we were close to the edge
And we'll wonder how we made it through the night
The end of the day
remember the way
We stayed so close to till the end
We'll remember it was me and you

'Cause we are gonna be forever you and me
You will always keep me flying high in the sky of love

Footnote:

A 12 October 2017 update. Even Cold Chisel makes me sook up. I mean, man up for God's sake. Forever now. Sook. Flame Trees. Super sook.


  1. Dunny: For non-Australian readers, a dunny is a water closet, or toilet. ↩︎

  2. Thunder box: See "Dunny". ↩︎